Eileen: Change is a positive action that can be difficult to accept. You offer internal business, organization development, and change consultancy to introduce long-term change to business units and increase their innovation and creativity levels. Tell me about how change can have a significant impact on success.
Peter: An example may be a good way of doing this.
We were asked to help a multinational company, concerned about possible competition changes due to merger and acquisition that threatened to erode or destroy their market share in a key product area. In short, our job was to ‘head the competition off before they reach the pass’. We undertook a scenario planning exercise to help the executive team unravel the complexity. This delivered the following benefits:
- Rehearsal of a number of probable futures before they have happened
- Identification of early warning signs so that the company could spot changes before they damaged their market position
- Involvement of people who were in a position to spot these early warning signs so the company was able to respond rapidly to change
Field sales staff were alerted to the signals as part of the consultancy exercise, which subsequently appeared. As a result, the company took preventative marketing actions up to 12 months before the competitor activity would have been picked up conventionally. This had an impact on bottom-line results that was measured in £ millions.
Eileen: What is your favorite quote(s)?
Peter: Sorry, it’s not a business guru!
“Money don’t buy you happiness, but it sho’ ‘nuff pays for the search” – Prince
Eileen: Who has influenced you and the choices you have made to create such an expansive platform for business? Why did their influence motivate and inspire you?
Peter: Perhaps unsurprisingly, my influences come from a broad church. In business, I admire Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters who have argued for more heart in business as a counterbalance to pure MBA thinking, which has taken capitalism beyond its natural limits. Musicians who have gone beyond their art to express a whole brain outlook on the world also inspire me. The list is too long to itemize, but Prince, Madonna, Bill Nelson, Lady Gaga and Django Reinhardt are up there.
Eileen: You have an MBA, are a Chartered Chemist, FCIPD, and an NLP Old Master. In addition, you are also an accomplished rock, pop, and jazz musician. The music part of your life has been instrumental in your bringing music theology into the business world. How have you seen these teachings and training to be a positive impact in leadership development, leaders guiding their companies, and personal shifts for leaders as participants in your programs?
Peter: Much of what we do is to draw parallels between business thinking and music. This engages leaders in ways that the normal MBA fare does not, and I’m told that the learning stays with them longer, gets converted to action which turns into results. A couple of examples underline the point: As a result of attending a summit event we ran with music, Unilever identified a marketing strategy for one of their products, which transformed their fortunes. The truth of the matter is that the strategy had been staring at them under their nose for years, but all efforts were directed towards finding something new.
We’d asked them to write songs to portray their hopes and fears for one of their key markets. The process refocused them on the idea that had previously been discounted and discredited. Sometimes innovation is not about new ideas, simply about spotting the right idea. Obviously, I cannot show you the intellectual content of the event, but we did constitute an after event jam session and you can see some of the attendees on stage here:
Sometimes I look at individuals with a purpose and draw out relevant lessons for business owners. Kate Bush, David Bowie, Prince and Peter Gabriel are shining examples of people who blend purpose with what they do for a living. I wrote about MBA lessons from Lady Gaga and Prince in my book “The Music of Business” which was acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith, the man who masterminded Live Aid. Since we heard about the “emotional bankruptcy” of Turing Pharmaceuticals, great pharmaceutical companies need to work even harder on their social purpose beyond selling products. They could learn a lot from Prince, Gabriel and many other musicians in this respect. A lot of business leaders have taken important lessons from stories like this and used them to set the ethical direction of their business out to give them a sustainable edge.
Richard Branson is an example of a business leader who gets the balance between what Daniel Pink calls passion, purpose, and profit
Eileen: People looking to achieve their own level of success can always use some guidance from those whose shoes they are stepping into. What words of advice would you like to pass on for our readers that can give them hope and encouragement, so they too can reach their highest potential?
Peter: Find something unique or at least hard to copy to do in your life, not just unique but also something that people want or need. Uniqueness often arises out of the clever combination of your skills and capabilities and those you can access within your networks that makes what you do hard to replicate.
I will then borrow (steal) from Tom Peters. Execution, Execution, Execution. Strategy is nothing without implementation. Listen, learn and improvise/adapt in the light of what happens. Only a fool sticks to a rigid plan in the face of compelling evidence that it needs to change.
Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to twelve books on business leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His three passions are science, business and music, having led innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs. 18 years in academia and 18 + years running his businesses. All his life since the age of four playing music. Peter won a prize for his work on Leadership from Sir Richard Branson and now writes for Virgin.
Editor’s Note: Peter Cook is also an esteemed Member of our Featured Contributors Panel. His extraordinary archives of authentic thought leaderhip can be found HERE.